X

Thank you for sharing!

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.


If you’re a lawyer, you’re not likely to like Laws of Attraction – the new romantic comedy that opens today about a pair of divorce lawyers played by Pierce Brosnan and Julianne Moore – and if you’re a divorce lawyer, you’ll probably hate it.

Sure, there are a few memorable moments and more than a few truly funny situations. But not nearly enough of this movie’s $32 million budget was spent on writers. And if the producers hired a lawyer to serve as a script consultant, he or she should be sued for malpractice.

I caught the flick a few weeks ago during the Philadelphia Film Festival and walked in with high hopes. I’m a longtime fan of Moore’s work and was eager to see her trying something light and fun. Although I’m no fan of Brosnan’s – I’ve always suspected he has dozens of mirrors in his home and spends much too much time in front of them – I was optimistic that he just might be likable in this role.

The festival program ambitiously pitched the movie as “in the tradition of the classic comedies of Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn (especially Adam’s Rib).” So even if it didn’t score an “A”, there was every reason to believe that these folks were at least aiming in the right direction.

The problem here is that Moore and Brosnan never capture the chemistry that made Hepburn and Tracy so compellingly watchable.

Within the first few minutes, the movie lays its foundation. We’re to believe that Moore is one of New York’s winningest divorce lawyers. She’s confident. She’s smart. She was first in her class at Yale. And she looks fabulous. (No inappropriate leather blazer like Cher’s lawyer character donned for a court appearance in Suspect. Moore wears tasteful, tailored dark suits.)

Then we watch as Moore’s character meets her nemesis – Brosnan – who happens to be sleeping at counsel table, appearing to be hung over or perhaps jet-lagged, and decidedly rumpled. Hmmm, we think, she’ll make mincemeat of him.

But in that first court appearance, Brosnan gets the upper hand and scores more than a few points in a brief hearing before Judge Abramovitz (brilliantly played by Nora Dunn of Saturday Night Live fame).

It could have been a great scene. It could have sizzled and set the stage for a delightful cinematic rivalry. Instead, it was silly and fell flat.

What was missing was good writing. A smart, skillful lawyer who’s good on her toes is still smart even in the midst of losing. But Moore’s character isn’t smart. She doesn’t have a quick tongue and an impressive vocabulary. And the premise for her courtroom loss is downright ridiculous: She didn’t know – didn’t know?! – that her pretty young client had signed a prenuptual agreement.

Comedies are often preposterous, so it’s no surprise that Moore and Brosnan soon find themselves on opposite sides in a series of high-stakes divorce cases. And their courtroom rivalry seems only to crank up their flirtations to the point that it’s inevitable that they’ll also end up on opposite sides of a bed one morning. I have no problem with that. Go there. I’ll follow. But make it worth the trip.

So here’s why I want my money back: It was no fun at all. With Hepburn and Tracy, it was marvelously visible in the glints of eyes and twists of smirks that their arguing was a pre-romance sort of dance. But Moore’s character – and it’s the script, not her acting, that’s lacking – isn’t falling in love with Brosnan. We know, since this isn’t the first such movie we’ve ever seen, that she’s headed in that direction; but she herself doesn’t seem to know. So how can we be expected to root for her?

By contrast, Brosnan’s character is believably quite smitten. And after a while, we come to see that he’s something of an idiot savant in matters of the heart. He’s got a master plan, which, every time we think he’s botched it, turns out once again to have been right on track all along. But watching a genius seducer at work is no fun when the object of his desire is in an emotional coma. Root for him we do, but it’s one hand clapping.

When the credits rolled, it turned out Brosnan was one of the movie’s producers, and it’s no surprise. He had all the best lines. He wins in the end and all the battles along the way.

Here again, there’s no comparing this to the brilliance of the Hepburn-Tracy movies, where the battle of the sexes was so fun to watch because each side had its moments of holding the high ground, and in the end a comfortable, eternal truce was declared.

One final complaint: Demanding legal accuracy of a movie is perhaps tiresome and especially boring when we’re talking about a comedy. But this movie’s legal flaws are so over-the-top it’s worth it to complain about a few.

The TV news follows our pair of famous divorce lawyers through all their cases, and we often see a gaggle of reporters gathered on the courthouse steps waiting for the “verdict” in the divorce case.

My favorite legal error occurs in a courtroom scene where Moore represents the husband, a British rock star, and Brosnan represents the wife, an empty-headed clothing designer (a meaty part in which Parker Posey chews up the scenery). Turns out Brosnan, by virtue of dating Moore, has seen a key document that shows the husband purchased a $3 million home for his girlfriend.

When Brosnan drops this bombshell in court, Moore turns and, in front of the judge, asks him how he found out about it. Her client, the spiky-haired rocker guy, blurts out something to the effect that she “wasn’t supposed to tell anyone about the Colorado house” and promptly stomps out of the courtroom.

Hello! Can you say “duty to disclose”?

This content has been archived. It is available exclusively through our partner LexisNexis®.

To view this content, please continue to Lexis Advance®.

Not a Lexis Advance® Subscriber? Subscribe Now

Why am I seeing this?

LexisNexis® is now the exclusive third party online distributor of the broad collection of current and archived versions of ALM's legal news publications. LexisNexis® customers will be able to access and use ALM's content by subscribing to the LexisNexis® services via Lexis Advance®. This includes content from the National Law Journal®, The American Lawyer®, Law Technology News®, The New York Law Journal® and Corporate Counsel®, as well as ALM's other newspapers, directories, legal treatises, published and unpublished court opinions, and other sources of legal information.

ALM's content plays a significant role in your work and research, and now through this alliance LexisNexis® will bring you access to an even more comprehensive collection of legal content.

For questions call 1-877-256-2472 or contact us at [email protected]

 
 

ALM Legal Publication Newsletters

Sign Up Today and Never Miss Another Story.

As part of your digital membership, you can sign up for an unlimited number of a wide range of complimentary newsletters. Visit your My Account page to make your selections. Get the timely legal news and critical analysis you cannot afford to miss. Tailored just for you. In your inbox. Every day.

Copyright © 2020 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All Rights Reserved.